The dust is settling on Team Summit's remodel at Copper Mountain, putting the organization in an updated, more visible space in Copper Village at the same time coaches are amping up programming to prepare for the upcoming training and competition season.
The move, the first after 18 years in the same spot, isn't the only thing new for the organization this year. It's continuing the focus on building a strong foundation of youth athletes in the disciplines of alpine racing, snowboarding and freeskiing, but the alpine division is also honing in on a more directed post-graduate program at the same time it's building a prototype inclusive adaptive program.
It's not new to have post graduates in the program - all three disciplines welcome athletes wanting to get further coaching - but this year, Ellie Hartman and Miranda Sheely plan to be full-time at Team Summit as they seek to get into scoring position for a Division I college or perhaps make the U.S. Ski Team, which practices next door to where the organization trains at Copper Mountain. They've been skiing together throughout their racing career, so the post-graduate unit should be tight-knit.
"It's great to have us three working together, and I think it'll be a great season," said Hartman, who aspires to be welcomed onto ski teams at University of Colorado first, then University of Utah and Montana State.
"Last year, some people who took a PG year didn't have a specific team or coach," said Sheely, who has her eye on University of Alaska's ski team. "This year, having that opportunity is so perfect, because we're able to get training in with other teams. Or go up when other people have school."
Their dedicated coach, Bart Bradford, is theirs alone - a first for the alpine program. He's working not just to train the two girls, but also to give them exposure to other athletes pursuing similar goals - like the girls they've been training with this week from Winter Park.
Ideally, the revised post-graduate coaching will be specific with conditioning for races and planning a competition circuit, alpine coach Erik Leirfallom said. The goal is to pull in older athletes from across the nation, training them on venues they may not otherwise have access to.
Another new focus is the adaptive program, which is geared toward athletes committed to their sport to the point where they've already purchased gear and are ready to start aspiring for goals like the Paralympics.
Mau Thompson of Adaptive Adventures is joining forces with Team Summit this year to deliver an inclusive adaptive program, where disabled athletes can train full-time alongside able-bodied peers.
"It's a very ideal situation to train with the same age group able-bodied athletes in the same environment," Thompson said, adding that this would be the first program to do so full-time.
"The competitive adaptive world has been very much isolated. ... (The powers that be) have felt it's so different, it can't be included," said Leirfallom, who was formerly an adaptive coach.
He hopes that, like the post-graduate program, the inclusive adaptive format can become a nationwide model for on-snow training and competition programs that can be duplicated elsewhere. Leirfallom points to Ski Windham in New York, which has strong programs in both able-bodied and adaptive racing, but whose programs don't share resources and operate separately.
"Team Summit can be a flagship," he said, explaining that he wants the Summit County program to be a case study in how to share funding and resources to train athletes together. Not to mention, if the barrier is broken between able-bodied and adaptive athletes in competitions, adaptive athletes will have better access to races. It's currently expensive and difficult to travel to adaptive races.
It all begins this year with an Army veteran who has taken to the sport and wants further coaching.
"As word spreads, interest will grow," Thompson said.
To help spread the good news, Team Summit will be screening a film titled "The Movement" in December. Part fundraiser and part awareness drive, the film is narrated by Robert Redford and Warren Miller and received accolades at the Sundance Film Festival.
As the main season gets underway in early December at resorts across the county (not just at Copper Mountain), Team Summit's foundation continues to be its introductory program, in which hundreds of youngsters as young as 4 and 5 years old - mostly from the Front Range - take to the snow in two-day introductions scattered throughout the season.
But, Team Summit "takes any level of any athlete. We give them everything we can," snowboard coach Sean Marshall said.